Accomplished.

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Source: Pixabay

We received our grade for the Virtual Team Assignment on Friday and I’m so happy! We really did put a lot of work into it, and the ‘team’ part was an uphill battle. It’s nice to know that working hard despite the obstacles actually does pay off. This assignment has taught me a lot about my own levels of patience, and how I interact with others online.

We talk a lot about how we present ourselves online, and this assignment has taught me to carefully consider my words. Every time I sat down to reply to our team’s Facebook group, I would ask myself:

Am I taking on board what the other person has said?
Is the tone of my reply friendly, or antagonistic?
Am I using clear language, or making assumptions about the other person’s knowledge?

I practiced this when trying to motivate our group to work together. There is a fine line between making suggestions, and trying to control other people. I found this article about managing virtual teams useful for the future. 

In other news, I got my proposal in! This was a tricky one. On one hand, it was a pass/fail module and therefore theoretically, not as worrying as our (many!) other assignments. However, whether something is worth 5% or 80%, I have a tendency to pour over it in an attempt to perfect it. This proposal was a valuable lesson for me in managing my time and knowing when something is good enough. As technical communication students, we may have a tendency to go over writing again and again, knowing that something can always be improved. However, this is a busy semester and learning to prioritise is vital. My proposal was longer than I anticipated, and the amount of appendices (survey and interview questions, ethics sheets) pushed it into crazy territory! However, as Darina mentioned in class today, the more work we put in now, the easier our summer project will be to tackle. 

Nonetheless, it’s in and I move forward to finishing our final 4 weeks. 

Virtual team assignment: submission time

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On Monday, we said goodbye to our virtual team assignment!

In the end, despite all my hopeful thinking at the beginning, I would say we had engagement from 1 of the 4 American students. Those aren’t very impressive numbers, but I’ve learned from this experience that I can’t expect everyone to prioritize work in the same way. I was lucky to have Toni on board! She copied and pasted all our Facebook messages onto documents for Sulis, as in the end I don’t think any  communication took place on there. The French students were thankfully very involved, and finished their translation with very little trouble.

With everything said and done, I believe Toni, Caroline and myself managed the assignment pretty well. While we always kept the others in the loop, we ensured that we were picking up any work that was leftover. I found that towards the end, the updating of the document got a little confusing. We were uploading new versions of the Word document and sometimes were unsure which was the most up to date version. I don’t know the best way this could have been managed… perhaps by just one person carrying out the edits? Or emailing documents may have been more beneficial at this point. I liked that we waited for each others opinion on making changes at the end and were able to talk through them logically, without wasting time.

So, I now know nearly everything there is to know about Google Slides! I had used it for group projects before, but there were loads of features I hadn’t seen before. For example, I think it’s pretty handy that you can search for images from within the app, and even filter through them (see image 1).

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Image 1

Another assignment ticked off the list… hard to believe we only have around 5 weeks left!

 

All kinds of everything

 

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Source: own image

It’s Week 8 and we are so busy!

I found week 7 to be the most challenging of the MA so far. On Friday, I submitted both my XML assignment, and my proposal for the EL6072 assignment.  The next morning I escaped to Amsterdam for a couple of days, for a well needed break. Having spent the weekend wandering the beautiful streets and eating an absurd amount of pancakes, I’m happy to be back in Limerick feeling mentally refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the semester. I tried to write this post from the WordPress android app while I was away, but while it’s great for seeing an overview stats/comments/etc., I couldn’t get it to cooperate when I tried to format the post. Need to spend a little more time with it!

TW5212 Workplace Issues in Technical and Professional Communication 

The XML/CSS assignment felt like a huge achievement. I could have spent another two weeks messing around with it and learning more complicated CSS,  but I’m happy with the outcome. My biggest problem (as usual!) was coming up with a topic, and I drove myself demented by constantly changing my mind. In the end I went with something very relevant to my studies right now – attributing images on a blog!

I spent a lot of time looking through the Creative Commons website. I’m glad I chose this topic as I learned a lot about the different types of licenses, mainly the difference between Royalty Free (you purchase a license once and use according to those terms), Creative Commons (there are lots of CC licenses, and a great way for artists to have control over their work while still sharing it) and Public Domain (no restrictions or copyright, but still always a good idea to read the terms). I still have a lot of research to do to understand these licenses fully, but I find Techopedia great for straight-forward explanations. I feel this is invaluable knowledge, especially as I plan on using vector images for my summer project.

EL6072 Interactive Courseware Workshop 

I got off to a rocky start with the proposal for the digital learning resource, but felt much more confident after getting really helpful feedback from Ann on my draft.

I am honestly amazed at how much I have learned since September. When I created interface designs for EL6041 last semester, I spent hours upon hours clobbering something together between Microsoft Paint and Word. They looked OK, but the proportions were off, nothing seemed aligned, they became fuzzy when resized, and they were so stressful to make. This semester, I have learned some basic tools on Adobe Illustrator and the difference is amazing! I still spent quite a lot of time on them, but I was getting faster the whole time, and they looked a lot more polished and professional. And there was practically no stress!

The real challenge will come when I try to actually create any of this in Animate and Dreamweaver but let’s just cross one bridge at a time!

I have a lot on the agenda for the rest of Week 8. The French students are just about finished their translation for the virtual team assignment for EL6082, so we will be spending some time ensuring everything is consistent. I am also eager to get ready for my TW5212 interview, as my interviewee would like to see the questions ahead of time.

 

Virtual Team Assignment: Reflecting on Communication

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Source: Pixa Bay

All quiet on the virtual team assignment front this week. The document went off to the French students on Monday. We have checked in with them, but they haven’t reported any difficulties so far. They’ve been involved since the beginning, so I’m confident they will reach out if they have any issues, and will produce a good translation (not that I would know… my French begins and ends at pain au chocolat).

Having the break from the rush of the assignment has given me time to think about our various approaches and how we organised (or didn’t organise) our transfer of information.

Email

Pros:

  • Easiest way to make introductions right off the bat

Our experience:

  • Some members of the group didn’t use their university email as their main email so I had some doubts over which emails I should be contacting.
  • Not getting a reply to an email is beyond frustrating and confusing. Did they get the email? Do we have the wrong email address? Did we not receive their reply for some reason? Very little correspondence was carried out through email.

Sulis

Pros:

  • Available for the lecturers to view at any point
  • Everything gets posted in chronological order.
  • Has analytics to show how much students are engaging with the site.

Our experience:

  • We only used Sulis for posting our updates to keep track of them ourselves.
  • If this was an assignment with only UL students, this would have been the obvious choice. Personally I feel that since we had so much trouble communicating with the other students as it was, Sulis may have caused even more trouble.

Facebook Group

Pros:

  • Works well on mobiles so great for communication on-the-move.
  • Shows whether members of the group have viewed posts, so easy to tell who is up to date.
  • Can be used as a platform for uploading files, photos and videos.
  • Can be kept completely hidden online.

Our experience:

  • It took a long time to get everyone on board, and I had to send out the link a few times
  • Turns out, Facebook seems to order posts by popularity as opposed to date, so it got awkward trying to find certain posts after a while.
  • We ran into issues towards the end when trying to upload new versions of the Word document, which led to minor confusion when trying to get the final document

As you can see, we never really managed to establish a concrete method of communication. Looking at my list, in an ideal world, the group would introduce themselves via email and then move over to Sulis for discussion, and document sharing. We don’t, however, operate in an ideal world. This assignment has been an experiment in virtual collaboration, and I’ve come to appreciate the need for minimal methods of communication.

Virtual Team Assignment: All’s well that ends well

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At the start of the week, I found myself getting very frustrated about the lack of collaboration within the group. It’s really annoying to feel like you are constantly yelling (well, typing) into a void.

A couple of people reminded me, however, that on the larger scale of things, this assignment is not worth a huge amount and I calmed down and started trying to let it all wash over me. Sure, I care a great deal about my grades, and always want to put forward my best, but at the end of the day, we have a perfectly lovely looking document, even if the group work wasn’t smooth sailing.

The document is heading for translation tomorrow, Monday 20th. This week was pretty busy as we tried to get everything consistent to hopefully make the translation easier on our French counterparts. We also wanted to have the images and icons sorted, so that the French students could offer their input.

Everyone eventually got in contact this week. The workload has certainly not been evenly distributed, however. Toni and myself had most of the document put together at the start of the week.

One of the American students, Caroline, was very eager to get stuck in this week, which was great. She worked on both writing instructions, and proofreading. She had some good ideas about presentation which made me see the benefit of having several heads working together. It definitely would have been cool to have all 6 of us working together, as you can never have too many perspectives. 

Another one of the American students offered some input this week, and worked on the glossary of terms. The other two students have given little or no input, really. It’s a shame, but they really came on board too late. We tasked one of the students with proofreading, however she came back saying she found nothing wrong with our unedited document. As we all know, there is always something wrong! The document had not been edited or proofread at all at that point, and we made plenty of changes going through it afterwards. This just goes to show that we are working from different bases, and I guess not everyone is engaged with the assignment. 

So that’s week four. Our document looks good, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Nicolas and Didier think!

 

 

Virtual Team Assignment: Powering ahead

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Week 4. Ahhhh! 

It has now been exactly two weeks since we received our groupings for this assignment. As of Monday 13th February, we have 7 out of 8 group members “on board”. We have yet to hear word from the 8th member.

At this point, myself and Toni have written almost the entire document. I’ve left spaces with headings for the others, but they haven’t been filled in yet. Being honest, I could write them myself in the time I spend sending emails and updating the Facebook page.  I had allocated the image sourcing to one of the American team members. However, time is ticking by so I’ve begun to gather the screenshots myself. Perhaps this is the wrong way to go about it, but I see no other choice. It’s too stressful and we are too busy with all our other commitments to just leave it on the hope that it will be done. We have tried waiting. We have reached out over and over. We’ve been patient, offered help with communication methods, juggled email/Facebook/Sulis, left the roles within the group very flexible. But it hasn’t worked. So here we are.

One of the American students appears to be working on some instructions for tomorrow, so it’s great to have someone else on board. She also seems agreeable to helping with the proofreading. I posted a light deadline of Friday on Facebook this evening, because while the weeks are difficult enough, the weekends are even worse communication-wise!

It’s disappointing, as this could have been a fun project. With everyone collaborating, there would really be very little work for each of us to do. Instead, I’m left with a rather bitter taste in my mouth and far too many negative feelings.  And yet, being the hopelessly forgiving person I am, I’m still hoping things turn around in the next… 6 days. 

Virtual team assignment: rallying the troops

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We’re nearing the end of week 3 and things are moving along, albeit slowly.

As of this evening (Thursday 9th), we have had contact with 2 of the 4 American students. Unfortunately it’s been hard to get input even from the students who have made contact, so Toni and I have had to power ahead with help from the French students, Didier and Nicolas. They have both been far more involved at this stage than I would have expected, so that’s a positive! 

We have done our best to reach out to all team members. While we are going ahead with making decisions, we are keeping everyone updated via email. We are also documenting everything on Facebook, and have posted on Sulis to cover all our communication bases. It would be great to have everything confined to one communication method, but it’s not feasible right now as we don’t have all the team together in one place. Hopefully by the weekend we can work through Facebook alone!

Toni and I have sort of naturally navigated towards a joint leadership role within the team, as we take turns passing on information to the others. We have chosen Google Slides as our topic and have tentatively assigned roles to everyone on the team as follows:

Toni – Instructions  for creating and editing slides
Nicola – Instructions for importing slides, and sharing slides with others 
Jerel – Sourcing of screenshots/graphics
Robert – Instructions for commenting on slides, and downloading slides as a PowerPoint 
Candace – Editing/ensuring consistency across instructions
Caroline – Proofreading 

I have created a Google Doc, which we can all contribute to and edit. Google Docs has limited design options though, so the document will need to be fixed up in Microsoft Word later on. I’m enjoying the process of writing the instructions (guess I’m in the right MA, hey?), and looking forward to seeing our finished product!